Whether you’re awaiting your first payment or still struggling to stretch out a monthly payment, Christmas on Universal Credit could be tough.
The Peabody Trust reckons 57,000 families could go without this year, because of the long sign up period. While Scottish claimants must wait two weeks, everyone else in the UK must wait five.
Here are the top five things to consider if you’re on UC and fearing a bleak mid-winter:
- Advance!: If you’re claiming your first payment around now, ask your Work Coach about an Advance Payment as soon as possible. You’ll have to pay it back over a period of time but it’ll see you through, if there’s no alternative. Try to avoid debt if you can but if you’d otherwise turn to a loan company, start here as it’s interest free
- Christmas comes early: If you’re due a UC payment over Christmas, check when it’s due. The good news is it’ll come early if the usual payment date lands on a weekend or bank holiday (including Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Years Day)
- Get real with the rellies: Manage expectations and explain it is going to be a lean Christmas this year. No-one who cares about you wants you getting into debt over them. Agree a spending limit – like zero for all the adults, or have a laugh about the best thing you can make each other. It can be hard with children but showing you love them at this time of year shouldn’t be about how much you’ve spent! Only you would know how much that is anyway… so on that note, don’t forget the charity shops. Focus on making it fun and remember, showing young people how to manage on a budget could be a real gift
- Cook the books: Cooking from scratch is cheaper. Involve the kids in the business of making Christmas work on a budget by asking them to help. Overdo the cheap but yummy stuff like roasties, Yorkshires and the veg that’ll fry up nicely in the coming days. Leftovers can be the best thing about Boxing Day and don’t forget to freeze anything that might not keep otherwise
- Friends in need: Ask around and see what’s going on. There are often loads of events for kids or just for people who might be lonely at Christmas. People are often happy to chip in together if someone just starts the conversation. That could be for a night out – or a night in, which is way cheaper – so we have something to look forward to. Check with your local council, church or community centre, or housing association if you rent from one, they often know what’s on offer. (If you’re moving onto UC and renting from a housing association, always tell your landlord so they can advise you what to do if your rent falls a bit into arrears.)
And if you’re doing okay this Christmas, spare a thought for those who might be broke or lonely. Could you and your friends or neighbours come together to make sure it’s a merry time for everyone.